January 21, 2013 by backofthenetjl
As published in Outside Of The Boot
Amongst the exciting crop of youngsters at Borussia Dortmund which includes the likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, there is another exciting young prodigy who is a little less known to the world of football. That player is none other than Moritz Leitner.
Unlike his German compatriot Mario Gotze, Leitner has struggled to cement a first team place at Dortmund and has only made 14 appearances in all competitions this season, nevertheless during his rare game-time, there is evidence that he has massive potential in the game; impressing in a number of positions and roles, with his most productive performances coming when he has been deployed in the middle of the park, where he is able to dictate play from deep.
Dortmund have quite a few midfielders at their disposal, so that is the main reason Leitner has been unable to force his way into the side. But we can sense that Manager Jurgen Klopp has faith in him as, for a player who is still just 20 years old, to feature 14 times this season is quite incredible. Some might fear that he won’t ever get the chance of starting games regularly, however if you look at the number of quality players who have progressed through the youth academy and burst onto the scene in the first team, your opinion may be changed ever so slightly.
Leitner was born in 1992 in Munich, Germany and started off his development at a local team called FC Unterföhring in the district of Munich, before moving on to 1860 Munich; the club who groundshare the Allianz Arena with German giants Bayern Munich. He spent 12 years in the academy at 1860 Munich and his patience finally paid dividends in 2010, when he made his debut for the club in a DFB-Pokal game against SC Verl. He went on to make a further 17 more appearances for The Lions, while Borussia Dortmund were closely monitoring his progress. The Yellows must have been impressed because in 2011, they swiftly opted to move for the German in January, with him then moving on loan to FC Augsburg until the end of the season where he made 9 appearances.
This season has clearly been his most successful, he’s been part of a Dortmund side that have flourished in Europe and despite not being one of the first names on the team sheet, in the home game against Manchester City, he got his chance on the European stage and firmly grasped it with both hands. Dortmund were already through to the knockout stages and fielded a weakened team, yet they still outplayed the Premier League Champions, with their passing and counter attacking abilities shining throughout the 1-0 win. Leitner was at the heart of that, controlling the game in midfield alongside Ilkay Gundogan.
Despite impressing when he has been selected, it has been incredibly difficult for the German to nail down a spot in the side, but that is completely understandable when you consider the standard of midfield players that Dortmund possess. He has been limited to game time this season, though when take into consideration that the player is still only 20, it is quite a formidable achievement that he has managed to make 14 appearances. After all, he wouldn’t of made half those appearances in most European sides, however Dortmund clearly value him and have used him effectively for specific games.
Aside from his club football, Leitner has also featured frequently for his country, representing both the German U-19 and U-21 side’s. An interesting fact about the starlet is that he has actually been capped by Austria at U-17′s level as he is eligible to play for them. He seems to have his heart set on playing for Germany in the near future though. It’s been a promising start to his career and he is widely tipped to develop and improve in the near future; ultimately fulfilling his potential we know he has.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
As soon as I noticed the youngster, I could see he had something. He just looked so relaxed on the ball didn’t hesitate or panic. He can play in a variety of roles in midfield, but in my opinion, defensive midfield is where his career will take him. He is perfectly suited to that role. Very comfortable on the ball, a skilful dribbler and a player with tremendous vision, he completely oozes class. Everything about him is so calm; you can tell he has been developed by Dortmund, he is a Dortmund sort of player. His ability to strike the ball cleanly is also something to note, he has good technique for shooting and is not afraid to shoot from distance, though finding that killer pass that will unlock the opposition defence will remain his priority.
Like most youngsters nowadays, he is of a very lean build, which means physically, he is quite weak. He does indeed lack strength, but for the position he plays in, it is not too much of a cause for concern, he does still have plenty of years ahead of him, so his strength can be easily worked on. Jurgen Klopp is a talented tactician who knows his players inside and out and I’m sure he will be aware of Leitner’s strengths and weaknesses. Klopp recognises his ability on the ball and I can see him becoming a regular in the side in the near future; in the meantime we may see him go out on loan to aid his development. With several other talented players in the squad, a midfield of Gotze, Gundogan and Leitner is such an exciting and promising combination; with all players phenomenal on the ball. Leitner isn’t the best player in the air, so that is something he may need to improve on in the future. In my view, he was the key attributes to have a successful career, a little few tweaks in his development will form him into something special.
(As of 18th January)
As mentioned in the article, Leitner has been limited to game time this season and has only managed to make 14 appearances, in which he has failed to score a goal. Despite this, some of his other stats are quite impressive, an example being his 75% shot accuracy which is evidence of his ability to strike a ball cleanly from distance. His passing is easily the best trait he has, he has excellent vision to pick out both a short and long pass and most importantly, his passing is accurate; this can be seen in a stat which shows he has an 83% pass accuracy.
Although, he isn’t noticed for his defensive play, his stats on his performances without the ball are in fact very creditable, with him having an average duel winning percentage of 60%. It is clear that he conjures up most of his moments of brilliance with the ball and not without it, he has created a total of 10 chances in his short game time this year; a stat I deem to be respectable. There have been a number of occasions where he hasn’t registered an assist, yet has produced a magical pass that has led to a goal, that stat may not be recorded but certainly something that is valuable to the Dortmund side.
For a player who hasn’t played too much this season, it has been rather difficult to find statistics for him. I have however, found one that is very interesting and prove’s he has the potential and quality to become something very big. Of the 246 players to have played 10 or more times this season in the Bundesliga, he is ranked 28th for minutes per chances created (56). This stat shows that despite him not featuring too regularly for Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund troops, he still manages to find pockets of space to create chances for forward. If he can do that with hardly any game time, then imagine what he would be capable of if he was a regular starter at Signal Iduna Park.
There has been no apparent indication about Leitner’s transfer situation and there seems to be no interest registered by any clubs. He is clearly regarded highly at Dortmund, so it could prove a bad move if they were to let him go, after all he clearly has massive potential and should he be sold, it would be a move that they would regret. He isn’t a regular in the side, but he still remains a pivotal part of a side widely tipped to dominate European football in the next few years. I honestly cannot see Dortmund letting him go.
I can however see a loan move being negotiated with a Bundesliga side. It would be good for him to get regular game-time under his belt; something he would very much benefit from. He’s still only 20, so there is still time for him to improve and develop, but sitting on the bench would do nothing to his progress as a player; a loan move would give him the opportunity to showcase his blossoming talent, as well as Dortmund not losing out on a player who has a huge future in the game ahead of him.